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The Scourge of PTSD

Like most Marines who have served in combat or experienced extreme, life altering, uncontrollable situations, I suffer from the affects of PTSD. With help, I’ve learned that it isn’t necessarily the event itself that causes the problem, but how we choose to allow it to affect our well being that really makes the difference.

I first began to have difficulties shortly after my first tour in Vietnam in 1967. At that time I would rely upon alcohol and bravado to get past the worst of symptoms, and it seemed to be the accepted treatment. I would go through another year and a half in Vietnam and it was 1980 before I first seen a Navy psychiatrist at the New London Submarine Base while I was on recruiting duty in Hartford CT. In 1983 I tried an Air Force psychiatrist while stationed at McDill AFB with USCentCom. Both misdiagnosed the condition as “life circumstances,” gave me some pills, a slap on the ass, and on my way. After I had retired from the Marine Corps I sought help from the Veterans Administration, who insisted on inpatient treatment with a large group of mostly losers and malingerers whose strategy was to complete the 30 days treatment plan and be awarded 100% service connected disability. I left against medical advice after five days of absurdity and swore to never step foot inside another VA medical facility.

At last, in 2001 I found my saviors in Dr. William Reed and Social Worker Dick Hefley. Dr. Reed had actually once worked for the VA, but left in disgust of the politics of the system. Dick had served in the Army with the Americal Division in the I Corps of Vietnam. Through a combination of medication and talk therapy over a number of years these men literally saved my life. I would like to share with you what they taught me over several years.

The goal, if possible, is to learn how to accept and deal with the circumstances of your situation without dependency on medications to exist day to day. Here are those lessons:

1. Nothing can change what happened to cause your PTSD. History is written in stone and no one has the ability to go back and change it. You must learn to accept it and deal with it in as positive a manner as possible.

2. There is no magic pill that will make it all go away, or change your memory. Medication can be used to treat the symptoms and ease the anxiety while you work to deal positively with the problem.

3. Avoid at all costs the “poor me” attitude which often accompanies PTSD after a period of time. It will only make it more difficult to obtain true lucidity.

4. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it!!! Only through talk therapy can you convince yourself that you can deal positively with the things that happen to you.

Of course, I realize that I am not a psychiatric practitioner and that every case and person is different to some extent.

By: MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

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Comments

G. Willard 0311, 8651/0321, 8511,…. - May 20, 2020

The VA implemented HBOT in 2017 for a subset of PTSD Vets that experienced no decrease of symptoms from at least two of the then current evidenced-based treatments. Don’t know who figured out that increased oxygen worked for more than just the bends, but that’s pretty amazing.

G Willard 0311, 8651/0321, 8511,…. - May 20, 2020

That’s funny. I guess the infantry Soldiers like “11 bang bang” (11-Bravo), kinda like our “grunt”. We’ve got 6 Marines, rest Soldiers in one of our PTSD groups. All brothers.

G. W. - May 20, 2020

Although part of the VA, Vet Centers since their inception in 1979 (thanks to our generation), are exclusively mental health centric: readjustment, PTSD, family, employment, etc. Ours is like walking into a family members home, a smile and “come on in”, as I’m sure yours is. Amazing.

Reinhold Woykowski - May 20, 2020

I am ( not) a combat Veteran but went into the Marines in 1972 and got out in 1974. During that time I started to see the Vets return and being discharged out of the Corp. I was only 18 at the time and some of theses men who were just a few years older than me, but they looked like they were already in their 30’s. I said to myself, what the hell happen over there. Some of them looked so sick and broken. They were paid and just let out to get on a bus or what ever. I know they needed some kind of help but there didn’t seem to be much of anything offered. Maybe talk to a Chaplin (if) that was even offered. Semper Fi

Ken Bouchard - May 19, 2020

I had two cousins that were in the Corps during WW II one served on Iwo Jima and the other on Bougainville. I like them
found that staying busy helps with the effects of PTSD; simple put your combat experiences will remain in that Brownie Camera called your brain until the day you die, you just have to manage the effects.

SF

MC - May 19, 2020

God Bless all of you. We are all in your corner.

Semper Fi.

Doc Albert H Seguer - May 19, 2020

As a Corpsman with a grunt company in Vietnam, ’68-’69, who previously was a neuro-psychiatric tech at Philly Naval Hospital and dealt with PTSD with patients, I thought that I was okay on arrival in-country, but after nine months in the bush with my Marines and three more at the BAS things changed, last year in the Navy, was happy to get out of a combat zone, then it all began. For a few years, even as I continued with education in psychology and working at a civilian hospital things went down quite rapidly. As you said, at first the VA didn’t know how to deal with PTSD, but with the help of many veterans and good psych people things changed, I got the treatment I and many others needed, have no complaints about the VA and remain very thankful for that. After retiring from a successful career I continue to help Marines and others find the comfort from PTSD as best as I can. I congratulate you in seeking treatment and sincerely hope you continue to help others who may need a hand of guidance in finding their way. DOC 3/1

Sheldon Nadler - May 19, 2020

I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman MOS 8404, FMF! I did tours 1966-67, 1967-68, and 1968-69. I started out with Seventh Marines, then 5th Marines during Tet in Hue, and finally at 1st Medical Battalion in Da Nang! My job was to save the lives of my Marines and I found myself having to take lives of the enemy to save the lives of my Marines. I had mixed emotions at the time and guilt after I got out. I have been in therapy and taking medications since 1970 until today 2020. 50 Years and I still have guilt, remorse, and night sweats and nightmares. It never go away, but you do learn to live with it!

Herbert L Shaw - May 19, 2020

When I came back from Vietnam in ’67 to a wife wanting a divorce I felt as if the world would be better off without me, and realizing that really wasn’t too I made an appointment with a Navy shrink. The first appointment he spent asking me if I loved my mom and
dad, did they love me, etc. I decided that he was crazier than I was and never went back. Soon got over the “poor me” feelings and I have survived all these years.

Edward R. Jarosh ” M” Btry. 4th Bn. 11th Marines 1965-1966 - May 19, 2020

I believe we all need to leave what happened to behind and look forward to our life of having a Family and raising them the correct way will help us move on. After all we can’t go back and change anything.. The Family will keep you mind somewhat full. Now I look back at the experience (still have flashbacks,still smell the diesel fuel and sand embedded in my brain, but the worst one is the sound of those Huey’s causing chaos in my brain). But on the whole I do feel better. After all I am one of the lucky ones for I have a Family to support me.

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